EARTH environmental session will focus on statewide prospects

The Environmental Action Response Town Hall Oct. 21 in Annapolis is designed to educate and prepare environmental activists and concerned citizens who care about the environment for the 2018 legislative session in Maryland, Anne Arundel County progressive activist Claire Miller reports. Participants will have the opportunity to hear about the environmental priorities of state legislators from both parties, environmental advocacy groups, and community leaders who are fighting environmental justice issues in their communities.

/By Claire Miller/ Maryland is a state where activists get things done. What we can learn from the success story of the fracking ban in Maryland is the power of coordinated action. That idea of coordinated action is what is behind the Environmental Action Response Town Hall Saturday, Oct. 21 in Annapolis.

The goal of this forum, which runs 2-5 p.m. at the Key School in Annapolis, 534 Hillsmere Drive, is to educate and prepare environmental activists and concerned citizens who care about the environment for the 2018 legislative session in Maryland. Participants will have the opportunity to hear about the environmental priorities of state legislators from both parties, environmental advocacy groups, and community leaders who are fighting environmental justice issues in their communities. There will be keynote speeches from Senator Ben Cardin, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Seema Kakade, the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic Director.  In addition, participants can engage with organizations who can provide further information, training and support in addressing environmental issues in their communities.  Common Cause will be on hand to sign up interested citizens to participate in advocacy training and CCAN will engage activists about clean energy. Seema Kakade will direct activists toward the UMD Law Clinic for pro bono legislative help.

How did this all come about?  Monica O’Connor, who leads the environmental team for WISE (Women Indivisible Strong and Effective) had an idea to form a Maryland Environmental Action Partnership to coordinate efforts during the 2018 legislative session. Her first action was to coordinate with the Citizens Committee on the Environment (CCE) to find state legislators and environmental advocacy groups who would be willing to educate citizens about their environmental priorities. I asked Monica to consider adding a third panel of community leaders who could speak to the environmental issues in their communities. I started networking through the chapter leaders of Progressive Maryland. Amity Pope, chapter leader for PM in Prince George’s County, invited me to attend a chapter meeting and hear the story of a community leader who is fighting the creation of a concrete batching plant on an existing manufacturing site right next to the Anacostia River.  From that one conversation with Chris Menendez at the chapter meeting, I connected with Professor Sacoby Wilson with the University of Maryland School of Public Health and his colleagues who are working on the front lines of environmental justice. Two of the individuals he recommended will be speaking: Rebecca Rehr with the Maryland Environmental Health Network and Ramon Palencia-Calvo with CHISPA, an interest section of the League of Conservation Voters. 

I have been inspired by all the people I have talked to and am excited about the environmental justice stories and legislative opportunities we will hear at the EARTH event on October 21, 2017 in Annapolis. I learned from Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, that the environmental justice community is different than the broader environmental movement. It is a more grassroots perspective of communities directly facing issues like air quality and water pollution which cause public health issues for the people that live in these communities.  And I’m also learning there is something that can be done about it. So many of these communities are fighting the good fight, but there are policies and resources that can be directed by our state and local government that can have a positive impact on those communities who are most impacted by these environmental issues.

Please save the date of October 21st and ask your members concerned about the environment and environmental justice to join us in Annapolis for the Environmental Action Response Town Hall (E.A.R.T.H.).  If you are interested in getting involved in planning future events as follow up to this town hall, please email me at ctmsailor@gmail.com.  Our goal is to form a statewide environmental action partnership to join our voices to support and defend environmental issues during the state session; however, having learned more about the environmental justice movement, there is plenty of work to do at a local level throughout the year.  


 Claire Miller is co-chair of Take Action Anne Arundel County, the county chapter of Progressive Maryland.